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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thriving in child-friendly schools

Rubingo Primary School was transformed into a UNICEF-supported centre for learning excellence seven years ago. Since then, teachers and parents have witnessed a significant change.

“We have been able to improve on our own knowledge and the way we teach, thereby improving the way students learn and perform,” said Viviane Mutarutwa, who has taught at the school since 2007.

Training teachers
UNICEF supports Teacher Resource Centres (TRCs) in Rwanda, dedicates spaces which enable on-site refresher training and provide an environment for teachers to interact, discuss learning methods and prepare for lessons.

At Rubingo Primary School, located 20 km from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, there are ‘learning days’ for teachers, where they can learn about modern teaching methods, child-centred methodologies, games and life skills.
“The more educated we, as teachers, are, the more likely it is that our students will get a quality education,” said Ms. Mutarutwa.

Model schools
Rwanda has one of the highest primary school enrolment rates in Africa -  95 per cent in 2010 –  but the quality of learning still remains a challenge. A quarter of all students do not complete primary education and 14 per cent repeat a class.

UNICEF began modelling the concept of Child-Friendly Schools in 2003. It focuses on improved learning methods, better conditions for children and an inclusive nature. The Government of Rwanda has adopted this approach as the basic standard for all schools in the country.

Providing on-going training for teachers is a key aspect of the concept. “We hope that teachers will be able to improve quality learning outcomes for children through such TRCs,” said UNICEF Education Specialist Heinrich Rukundo.

The vision is to have six to eight model schools in each of Rwanda’s 30 districts, with TRCs monitored by the schools’ head teachers in conjunction with teacher training colleges.

Brighter future
The changes at Rubingo Primary School have been welcomed by students and teachers alike. “Before UNICEF started providing assistance in making this school child-friendly, all we had were dark classrooms with a few benches,” said Head Teacher Jean de la Paix.

“Today, we have bigger, brighter classrooms, separate latrines for girls and boys, a playground and most importantly, a teacher resource centre.”

There were only four teachers and 70 pupils at Rubingo Primary School in 2003. That has since risen to 15 teachers and more than 300 students. The children’s education has also improved.
“At the National Primary Leaving Examinations this year, over 88 per cent of the pupils who sat it passed. And we have no drop outs,” said Mr. de la Paix.

By Sam Nkurunziza

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